The full 42.2 – Part 3: Fear the stairs

The first feeling I got after crossing the finish line was relief. I made it. I was done.

But then, when the volunteer put my medal around my neck the sobs started. I didn’t think I would cry but there were way too many emotions bubbling up not to. I found Chad and Catherine just before I grabbed my food. Chad asked if I was OK and I certainly was. I couldn’t tell if the tears were from relief, pain or pride but it was probably a mix of all of them.

This was my best attempt at stretching after the race.
This was my best attempt at stretching after the race.

After grabbing half a muffin, a cookie and some orange slices I found my family and we headed off to meet the rest of the marathon training group who had already finished. It was so exciting to hear everyone else’s race stories and take group photos once everyone had crossed the line. I don’t think the reality of what we had accomplished sunk in until much later, at least for the first-timers anyway.

When the celebration was over we all made our way back to our hotels to get ready for dinner, where the real celebration would begin. It was at that point I was patting myself on the back for booking our accommodation just blocks from the finish line because I don’t think I would have been able to walk much further if I had to.

I have never felt so gross or sweaty in my life so after we got home the ice bath and hot shower that followed was incredibly satisfying.


The team had a group reservation at Canoe Brewpub, right on the harbour. Thankfully my parents had rented a car so they picked us up and took us there. Unfortunately there was a large staircase in between me and the entrance to the pub. By that point my legs had stiffened up and my knees were in so much pain that I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it down them. However, the beer waiting for me at the bottom ended up being just enough motivation.

As soon as I sat down and glanced at the menu I knew what I was going to order. A large pint of craft beer that was on special and the biggest burger they had with a side fries. It was the best meal. Ever. We partied until late into the night, or so if felt. In reality, we were in bed by 10.

On Monday, after a good sleep in and a lazy coffee and donut breakfast at a nearby coffee shop, Catherine, Chad, my parents and I all went to The Butchart Gardens. The rain that had persisted through most of the day Saturday was back and it was pouring. I wasn’t much bothered by it though because I had prayed for there to be no rain during the race and I got that. I couldn’t ask for too much more.

The gardens were actually quite beautiful in the rain.
The gardens were actually quite beautiful in the rain.

The slow walk through the gardens actually felt great. It helped to shake out some of the stiffness in my legs but any time I was facing stairs was a different story. I was learning about the realities of taking a running vacation, which is that sometimes the running hinders the vacation. But, I was totally OK with that.

Chad and my parents flew home from Victoria on Monday night and Catherine and I spent the next two days touring Victoria. We shopped, ate (everything), kayaked and had an amazing time.

I was actually surprised by how fast I recovered. Besides stiffness and soreness for a few days after the race I didn’t notice too many other marathon side-effects, besides pride.

Another thing I didn’t expect to happen so quickly after the marathon was to already be thinking about running another one.


The full 42.2 – Part 2: Finish Strong

Sunday, Oct. 11 – Race Day 

I rose Sunday morning feeling calm, ready and excited for the race. I shook off my nerves the night before and thanks to the 8:45 a.m. start time, I got a good night of sleep, which is unusual for me the night before a race.

At 6:30 I ate my breakfast of toast with almond butter and jam and a banana and got dressed, packing my pockets full of Stingers and gels.

The weather was perfect. It was cloudy, 12 degrees and for the first time in two days, it wasn’t raining. I thanked the weather Gods for not having to worry about a jacket or gloves or any of that nonsense.

Serious business, this marathon running.
Serious business, this marathon running.

I met the team near the start line and after a quick warm-up and several trips to the port-o-potties (just in case!), it was time to find our pace bunny in the chute. The UofC Marathon Training crew gathered together a little bit behind the 4:30 pace bunny even though some of us would be slower, and some of us faster than that. After training with these people all season I couldn’t imagine starting the race without them.

The starting chute was buzzing with nervous energy and I could feel the excitement and anticipation building up in my chest. We were all messing around and laughing but at the

Or maybe not so serious.
Or maybe not so serious.

same time kept looking at each other and saying, “Are we really about to do this?”. Finally, the race officials started to count down. As the pack moved closer and closer to the start line all I could think was, “Omg, this is happening, we are going to run a marathon.”

The race started and slowly we picked up speed, hitting a run just as we crossed over the start line.

Here is a breakdown of how my race went:

1 to 5km: Running’s a breeze

Fuelled by adrenaline, the main challenge was to keep our pace slow and not tire ourselves out in the first 10k. The race began at Menzies and Kingston beside the British Columbia Legislature building. After circling the legislature, the route took us into the heart of downtown Victoria along Wharf Street. Downtown there was plenty to look at and no shortage of enthusiastic spectators to cheer us on, including the especially excited Lululemon staff in front of their store. Those guys always have the best signs.

5 to 8km: New Friends

Here we are heading out of Beacon Hill Park.
Here we are heading out of Beacon Hill Park.

The next three kilometres consisted of two large loops through Beacon Hill Park which was quiet, cool and beautiful. Here we met a few runners from Calgary who were both multiple marathoners and who come back to run Victoria year-after-year. We visited for a while after they heard it was my first marathon. Having that camaraderie on the trail made the miles fly by. It was somewhere in the rolling hills of Beacon Hill I realized although I was trying to take it slow that my pace was faster than I was planning for it to be. I had told my family I would be running between 6:45 and 7 minutes per kilometre but my running partner MC and I were holding closer to 6:30 per kilometre at that point. MC pointed out that it’s OK to run a little faster during the race than in training so we continued on. I caught a glimpse of Chad and Catherine on my way out of the park as I headed towards the coast.

11 to 17 km: Instant Inspiration

At around 11km we headed inland and for the next 6km we ran through the tree-lined residential streets of Oak Bay. It was somewhere along this stretch that I met Greg Tonge, a 65-year-old runner who was completing his 50th marathon. That would be a huge accomplishment in and of itself, but Greg is also visually impaired. He runs with a guide who leads him along the course in a bright yellow shirt telling him where the potholes are, when turns and hills are coming up and when they are nearing an aid station. Greg has run marathons all over the world and talking to him gave me an insightful look at just what a person can do when they put their mind to it. It was then I found out one of the great things about running a marathon, that when the road is getting tough and you need a little inspiration to keep going, all you have to do is look around.

17 to 23km: The cheering squad

I see my peeps!
I see my peeps!

At 17km we were back on the coast and heading north on a winding trail towards the turnaround point. Things started to get real as we neared the half-way marker, I was feeling strong and motivated but at the same time knew I was feeling a little more sore than I wanted to be at that point. At around kilometre 22 I was surprised to see my family and friends cheering as we passed. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to drive that far out with the road closures but they made it. The best part was since it was an out and back route I knew I would see them again.

23.5km: The turnaround point

I think it is pretty normal that reaching the turnaround point in race gives you energy but man, did it ever feel good. Knowing that from that point forward you were heading towards the finish line is absolutely motivating.

25 km: Highway to Hell

For some reason during this race almost every time we passed the entertainers they were playing some slow quiet song accompanied by a piano or acoustic guitar. While I am sure they were all very talented, it wasn’t exactly pump-up music. Luckily the rock cover band at 25km was blasting some AC/DC, putting an extra little spring in my step.

27km: My first real walk

I had been walking some of the aid stations but at 27km I made the decision to give myself an extra minute or so. MC and I separated for the last time around 28km. Our plan had been to run together until one of us needed to go ahead or back off. That time had come so for the rest of the race I was on my own.

29km: Less than helpful advice

“If you run backwards you use different muscles and it doesn’t hurt as much,” said an overly chippy boyfriend trying help his more than unimpressed girlfriend he was running the race with. As I passed the happy couple I overheard this piece of advice as he jogged backwards ahead of us and I could feel her death stare even as I was coming up behind her. I tried really hard not to laugh because the look on her face said only, “I am in pain and I want to kill you.” I was much closer to feeling how she felt than how he felt so I didn’t blame her. I hope their relationship survived that race.

30km: The bargaining begins

As we headed away from the coast and back into the residential area I no longer had a view of the ocean to keep me going. The streets all started to look the same and I started thinking to myself, “If I get to 32km, then I will only have 10km left!” At 32km I thought, “If I get to 34km then that will be the furthest I have ever ran!” Sometimes, those are the thoughts that keep you running.

35km: Cheers!

By now I had ditched my water bottle, I was tired of running through the sloped Victoria streets and the way back through the residential area seemed like it was taking SO much longer than it had on the way out. The runners had thinned out to the point where most of the time I was running with at most one or two people within sight of me. I had no idea where the next aid station was so when I passed the party house that had been handing out dixie cups of beer all morning, what do you think I did? I drank it, of course. We had been warned about the unofficial aid stations and been told that partaking was up to us but hey, I was thirsty! And it was GOOD.

36km: Pain > scenery

Refreshed by the magical cup of brew, I picked my pace back up and was rewarded by ending up back along the coast. I was approaching probably the most beautiful part of the route but unfortunately it’s hard to appreciate the scenery when you can feel every single muscle in your legs searing in pain.

37/38km: The dumbest thing I have ever done

This was the part of the race where I started walking and was actually not sure if I would get started running again. The waves crashing up against the rocks and the picturesque houses along Dallas Rd. all disappeared because all I could think of as I struggled my way up the last hill of the race was, “This is the dumbest thing I have ever done. I have never been in so much pain in my life.” My hips were tight, knees sore and every muscle in my legs felt like it was going to tear.

In this sequence I go from, 'So much pain' to 'I hate my life' to 'Maybe a stretch will help' to 'I will try and run' to 'Oh look, a camera, attempt a smile'.
In this sequence I go from, ‘So much pain’ to ‘I hate my life’ to ‘Maybe a stretch will help’ to ‘I will try and run’ to ‘Oh look, a camera, attempt a smile’.

38.5 to 40km: Memory lapse

According to my Garmin I managed to run this bit, but to be honest my memory of this part of the race is a little (lot) fuzzy.

40 to 42.2: Finish strong

When I hit the 40k marker I realized I was almost done and it was a race to the finish.  All of a sudden the spectators reappeared and you could hear them pushing us through that last stretch. For the last two KM I knew I needed to give it all I had, there needed to be nothing left in the tank. Partly motivated by my strong desire to be done the damn race, I ran faster and faster until I could see the finish line. The fact that I could no longer feel my legs was probably a blessing. I remember passing my teammates and my family but don’t think I had the energy to cheer or even smile. With the end in sight I pushed hard to pass the last few people ahead of me.

Before the race I had envisioned jumping across the finish line fist-pumping, cheering and celebrating. That was my plan. But in those last few seconds as the finish came within reach I forgot all of that and the only thing I could think was, “Finish. Finish strong, and hold nothing back.” I ran across the line at 4:53:18. On the outside I only had the energy for the weakest smile. Inside however, I was more excited and more proud than I’ve ever been.



The full 42.2 – Part 1: The calm before the storm

I know the burning question you have probably been dying to have answered is, did I run 42.2 kilometres or just 40.2?

I can thankfully report that the first lesson I learned while training for a marathon stuck and although tempted to wave for a bus at 40K, I did indeed grind it out right until the bitter end of the 42.2km race. Actually, according to my GPS watch I ran 42.64km and by the time I saw the finish line I was really begrudging that extra half a kilometre.

It has been more than a month since my race and it has gone by in a blur but I am FINALLY ready to break the weekend down for you. I have so much to say about the race weekend that I’ll be telling this story in three parts – before the race, the race and after the race. Here we go:

Saturday, Oct. 10 – Race Prep

In the days before the race I feel like I went through so many different emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness to confidence. Some of those emotions were fleeting (confidence), some were constant (excitement) and some bubbled up when you least expected it (nervousness). Overall, they were the good kind of feelings you get in anticipation of an event you’ve been planning for a long time.

But it wasn’t until Saturday, when I arrived at the race expo and had a brief moment when I couldn’t figure out where to pick up my race package that all of a sudden, all I felt was STRESS. The bad kind of stress that makes your chest tight and causes you to snap at loved ones when they are trying to help by giving you directions. Yes, that might have actually happened. Sorry guys.

It was like the whole experience including the training, travelling to Victoria and being a day away from the race finally caught up to me and I wasn’t ready for or expecting that. After a slightly panicky walk through the expo spent trying to calm myself down by looking at the booths, I didn’t feel much better. It didn’t help that I found out the jacket I was planning to buy was only sold as a pre-order item, which wasn’t mentioned on the website. It was such a stupid, inconsequential thing but when I was already feeling anxious, the disappointment just added to the weight that had suddenly been dropped on my shoulders. It was the only race expo of the year that I can say I didn’t enjoy, and not because there weren’t enough free PowerBar samples.

The healing perogies. Super flattering, I know.
The healing perogies. Super flattering, I know.

When we left the expo, we decided to grab some lunch and stumbled upon a quiet corner near the Royal B.C. Museum where a couple of food trucks were parked. Away from the crowds and all the reminders of the race I was able to stop and take a few deep breaths.

While waiting for my plate of homemade perogies I reminded myself how hard I had trained, how much work I had put in and that I was ready for this.

I made a quick decision to take all the stress I was feeling and all the anxiety that had built up at the expo and let it go. Dwelling on it just wasn’t an option. A good meal covered in bacon, onions and sour cream later and I was feeling more like myself.

For the rest of the day I did my best to take it easy. I sent my friend Catherine and boyfriend Chad to go explore the city, not wanting to hold them back because I was limiting the use of my feet, while I caught the last speaker at the race expo, Terry Fox’s brother. Listening to him talk about Terry and his Marathon of Hope really helped me to put my worry-filled morning into perspective.

At 4 p.m. we had a team meeting where we received some last minute advice from our UofC Training Program coaches including; don’t stop your watch right when you cross the finish line, use the port-a-potties as many times as you can before you start and HAVE FUN. So basically, we touched on all of the important stuff.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

After the meeting I retired to my AirBnB for some quiet prep time. With my friends still out, I was able to relax, take a bath, eat an early pasta dinner and finish deciding on what I was going to wear. I packed my Stingers and PowerBars up in plastic wrap and laid all my gear out so it was ready to go. Taking that alone time to get ready wiped away all the nerves and settled me into competition mode. I was feeling the calm before the storm.

After my friends came home I recruited them to help me carry out the last part of my race prep plans. As part of my race strategy, I had planned to start the run carrying a bottle of Gatorade, since there wasn’t supposed to be any at the aid stations (although during the race I found out there actually was).

Since I wasn’t keen on holding a water bottle for the whole marathon I wanted to bring something disposable that I could ditch after I finished it but I still wanted to bring a bottle with a strap to keep it on my hand like when I train. The simple solution to that problem was to make it myself! A little duct tape experimentation later and I had a Gatorade bottle with a handle and even a gel pocket. I was so impressed with my handywork that I have to admit I was actually kind of sad to toss it away just over halfway through the race.

With my craft done, there was nothing left but sleep.

Catherine helping me make my duct tape water bottle handle.
Catherine helping me make my duct tape water bottle handle.
I am a genius.
I am a genius.

The post-marathon blues

I’ve spent the last week attempting to process having finished my marathon but there are still times when I think to myself, ‘Did that really just happen?’. After working so hard for so long, it’s incredibly weird that it’s over and even stranger to think about the fact that I’m no longer training for my first marathon, but that I’m actually a marathoner.

Looking back on my time in Victoria — the race and the recovery — I know I did my best to try to slow down and take it all in as everyone advised but it still seems like it went by in a blur. For me the trip was not only about the race, but it was also the first holiday I’ve taken since January. Time goes quickly while revelling in a much-needed break from work, Calgary, and quite frankly, from blogging.


Mission accomplished

I was told that it’s ok to cry when you cross the finish line after your first marathon. I wasn’t sure whether I would or I wouldn’t but when a volunteer was putting my medal around my neck it was hard not to. I am not sure if it had more to do with the extreme pain I was in, with the gratitude of being done my race or with the pride and satisfaction of having finished the race, but I cried.

The marathon was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever done but I finished! My goal was to finish in under 5 hours and I completed the run in 4 hours and 53 minutes. I am absolutely happy with that.

Next week I plan on writing a much more detailed account of the race but right now it has been a long day and my eyelids are feeling very heavy.